Examining Google’s latest solar initiative: Project Sunroof
Is solar right for you and your home? Google wants to assist in the decision-making.
Project Sunroof, the company’s latest solar initiative aims to put Google’s expansive data in mapping and computing resources to use, helping calculate the best solar plan for users. The online service combines the images behind Google Earth with calculations such as how much shade trees cast over a rooftop, data on local weather patterns, industry pricing and available subsidies to arrive at its bottom line.
"We at Google believe in solar energy. The solar industry needs our help," said Carl Elkin, the senior software engineer who created the service.
Project Sunroof computes how much sunlight hits your roof in a year by taking into account: Google's database of aerial imagery and maps; 3D modeling of your roof; Shadows cast by nearby structures and trees; All possible sun positions over the course of a year; Historical cloud and temperature patterns that might affect solar energy production.
The end result provides users with a set of tools to facilitate the purchase and installation of solar panels, including calculating how much money a user can expect to save year by making use of solar power.
“Project Sunroof recommends an installation size to generate close to 100 percent of your electricity use, based on roof size, the amount of sun hitting the roof, and your electricity bill,” the website states.
“Project Sunroof uses current solar industry pricing data to run the numbers on leasing, taking a loan, or buying solar panels for your house to help you choose what's best for you. Project Sunroof also compiles the following incentives to calculate your final cost: Federal and state tax credits; Utility rebates; Renewable energy credits and net metering.”
Launched this past summer in San Francisco and Fresno, California, and Boston, Google expanded the service in December to analyze properties in 16 metro areas, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, New York and New Jersey.
In recent years Google has invested more than $1 billion into solar energy, including $300 million earlier this year to finance residential rooftop projects installed by Solar City Corp.
Toyota unveils electric van and Volvo opens fuel cell lab
Toyota is launching its first zero emission battery electric vehicle, the Proace Electric medium-duty panel van, across Europe.
The model, which offers a choice of 50 or 75kWh lithium-ion batteries with range of up to 205 miles, is being rolled out in the UK, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
At present, alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs, including battery electric vehicles) account for only a fraction – around 1.8 per cent – of new light commercial van sales in the UK, but a number of factors are accelerating demand for practical alternatives to vans with conventional internal combustion engines.
Low and zero emission zones are coming into force to reduce local pollution and improve air quality in urban centres, at the same time as rapid growth in ecommerce is generating more day-to-day delivery traffic.
Meanwhile the opening of Volvo's first dedicated fuel cell test lab in Volvo Group, marks a significant milestone in the manufacturer’s ambition to be fossil-free by 2040.
Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen with oxygen, with the resulting chemical reaction producing electricity. The process is completely emission-free, with water vapour being the only by-product.
Toni Hagelberg, Head of Sustainable Power at Volvo CE, says fuel cell technology is a key enabler of sustainable solutions for heavier construction machines, and this investment provides another vital tool in its work to reach targets.
"The lab will also serve Volvo Group globally, as it’s the first to offer this kind of advanced testing," he said.
The Fuel Cell Test Lab is a demonstration of the same dedication to hydrogen fuel cell technology, as the recent launch of cell centric, a joint venture by Volvo Group and Daimler Truck to accelerate the development, production and commercialization of fuel cell solutions within long-haul trucking and beyond. Both form a key part of the Group’s overall ambition to be 100% fossil free by 2040.